Two weekends ago, the Ottawa Valley Land Rover (OVLR) club held its 34th Annual Birthday Party event. This is OVLR’s largest annual event and normally falls on the third weekend in June. The event is near the town of Maberly, in Southeastern Ontario about 90 minutes North of the U.S. border.
Leading up to this year’s event, the weather was somewhere between magnificent and mixed. For those who showed up early, the weather was wet from all the scattered thundershowers coming through the region. Despite predictions of a wet week, the chances were pretty good that you would not see too much rain, and if you did, it was short-lived during the day. The event did see more people showing up on Thursday, to be ready for some extra time on the trails Friday. All the rain did make for more water back in the forest. This Birthday Party was not one that will be remembered as dry. The trails in many places had a fair amount of water on them, leading to some challenges for the less amphibiously inclined vehicles. Overall, the temperatures were moderate with warmer days, then cooling off for sleeping at night. Perfect for some!
Quite a number of vehicles went out onto the trails. The Birthday Party offers trails for the neophyte, who is just getting used to driving off-road, to those who have nicer vehicles and do not necessarily wish to cause any future issues. From there, a couple of “light off-road” trails, one in use for twenty years, and another new this year starting at the main site and heading north. A third can be considered the Bolton Creek trail, where a rather large stream crossing is the central feature of this trail. Trying to avoid the semi-obscured underwater boulders makes for an interesting exercise in navigation for the driver.
For longer distance driving, there is the K&P trail which leverages the abandoned railroad that once ran between Kingston and Pembroke. For those who want a little more of a challenge, there is the Levant trail, more of an aggressive, yet passable set of trails farther afield. Finally, there is the “Heavy Off-road”, a traditional exercise for the mud-bogging enthusiast. A winch and recovery gear are necessities. These trails all benefit running in a small group of vehicles, in case one wets out in a water crossing, or becomes stuck and needs a bit of a pull. None are deeply challenging and all are doable over a couple of hours between meals.
Unlike past years where limitations on trails led to some rather long convoys and delays, the rather large expansion of the number and lengths of the trails led to smaller convoys and the only delays being self-inflicted on the trail. Like with other growing events, the ability of the trails to absorb all of these vehicles and still make for a relaxing, yet challenging drive was remarkable. Groups of vehicles ranged from mixed to specialized. One group was led by a Series One 80 inch, followed by Series IIA’s, then a Series III and ending with Range Rovers. That was a fascinating group to watch as you could see how the capabilities of the different vehicles changed over the years. Another group was mostly Defender 90 and 110s, where wheelbase difference and the capabilities and advantages of one over the other were apparent.
Friday evening saw the gathering of Land-Rovers split evenly between the Silver Lake Provincial Park and the main event site a few miles to the northeast of Maberly. It was an evening of communal meals cooked between the various campsites, and then campfires and beverages into the evening as people discussed improvements to their vehicles, challenges, and rebuilds over the past year, and generally catching up in ways that the Internet cannot yet supplement. Who is buying what, and where, and who is going to drive a Series one across half the USA in the near future.
Saturday evening was the traditional group meal at the main site where all of the members were gathered to tell tall tales about their exploits, or generally be ribbed in a good-natured fashion for their challenges when they got hopelessly mired. This was followed by the usual movie night, for both the adults and kids, to relax with a diversion, assuming they were not part of the night off-road group that went out on the trails. What’s more challenging than doing an interesting trail in the dark? This is an interesting feature that has appeared in many other rallies in North America, from the Winter Romp to the Mid-Atlantic Rally.
The event concluded Sunday with the traditional auction of various goodies and items donated by club members or sponsors, of which Atlantic British is one of the longest running, consistent supporters of the oldest continuous running Land-Rover Rally in North America. After the auction, people either made their fare-thee-wells until the next event and headed home, or those with some extra time headed back out onto the trails for a quick run before also heading home.
Overall, the Birthday Party was another enjoyable event, that offers a lot of different off-roading challenges. For those preferring some comfort, there are nearby motels, or the Provincial Park to camp in. For the more independent, the main site offers very affordable (read free) camping. The club also provided breakfast Saturday and Sunday.
Text and Photos: Dixon Kenner- Ottawa, ON
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